West African Forum on Disinformation and Radicalization
Strengthening Digital Literacy to Enrich the Democratic Process
When: June 17, 2021 from 1:00 p.m. (EDT)
Where: Virtual via Zoom (link found in email invitation)
With the recent proliferation of internet availability on the African continent, senior government leaders are now asking how disinformation campaigns can impact their nations and what they can do to thwart deception and false narratives being directed at their citizenry. The sheer amount of information being circulated means that governments and leaders must take specific actions to ensure that their citizens receive factual and actional information. State actor’s recent disinformation campaign in African countries highlights the challenges that African states face in crafting internet policy that is responsive to both external threats and internal political dynamics.
Social Media platforms have been besieged with COVID-19-related information since the pandemic began in late 2019. Information about the virus has been shared and viewed over 300 billion times online and mentioned more then 45-million times on Twitter and web-based news sites in the 54 countries of the WHO African Region since the beginning of the pandemic, according to UN Global Pulse, the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s initiative on big data and artificial intelligence. A sizeable quantity of this information is erroneous and misleading, yet it continues to be shared by social media users intentionally or unknowingly every day.
This forum will examine how disinformation campaigns may threaten freedoms and democracy and may lead to increased radicalization. Given the current pandemic, increasing security threats in different parts of the continent, perceived marginalization, anger, confusion, and economic challenges as result of Covid-19, there is a tendency that political actors, extremists, antivaxxers, and terrorists may take advantage of these societal challenges either to misinform, disinform, promote apathy, counter vaccination efforts, or skew voting choices for forthcoming elections. Hence, the conference is timely as it will facilitate discussion around misinformation and disinformation, misleading news, their effects on Africa’s burgeoning democracies, and how it might be mitigated.
“In health emergencies, misinformation can kill and ensure diseases continue to spread. People need proven, science-based facts to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing, and a glut of information – an infodemic – with misinformation in the mix makes it hard to know what is right and real. This crucial new alliance brings unique reach, knowledge and skills to help stop the impact of dangerous misinformation."
- Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa
Featuring subject matter experts, renowned civil society actors, academia, law enforcement and former government officials with expertise on regional issues including countering disinformation on the local and State level who will provide forum participants with case studies and best practices while discussing:
- Co-ordinating a Centralized Response to Build Public Trust
- Incorporating the public into your misinformation response to increase the reach of your response to harmful news stories.
- Best practice communications actions to reduce the spread and credibility of misinformation.
- Technologies, practices, and processes governments can utilize to recognize and counter disinformation campaigns.
- Available resources governments can leverage in their efforts to counter disinformation campaigns and their effects.
- Examples of recent disinformation.
- What governments need to know to counter disinformation.
- Handling media’s impact on spreading disinformation and in turn, countering its effects.
1:00PM Event Start
1:00-1:15PM Introductory Remarks
- Serge Blais – Executive Director, University of Ottawa Professional Development Institute
- HE Seydou Kabore, Ambassador of Burkina Faso and Dean of the ECOWAS Ambassador Group, Washington, D.C.
- HE Sidique Wai, Secretary General, ECOWAS Group of African Ambassadors, United States of America.
- Paul Goldenberg – Distinguished Visiting Fellow, University of Ottawa Professional Development Institute
- Graham Brookie – Director, Digital Forensic Research Lab, Atlantic Council
- Aurélie Skrobik – Infodemic Response Analyst, African Infodemic Response Alliance, World Health Organization
- Dr. Joel Finkelstein – Director, Chief Science Officer, Network Contagion Research Institute
- Discussion and Q&A
TIME Event Ends